Thanks to Cast and Crew

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We Thank the Cast and Crew cast-and-crew-for-web-2

The cast and crew made the Liberty Showcase Theatre’s production of The Santa Diaries so very special and Laura and I are grateful for all their hard work. I was ill and unable to get to the last performance, but Laura attended with her husband. Despite some weather issues the Saturday evening performance and the Sunday matinee were packed. Laura said people laughed and cried. When that happens we know we’ve done our job as writers. Immediately after the last performance, volunteers began breaking down the set. In community theatre everybody gets to do a little bit of everything. My belief is that this is part of why participating in community theatre can be such a bonding experience. As some previous blogs have indicated, participation often spans generations.

Hiccups

In this production there were a number of hiccups. One was replacing the person who was to play Josh two weeks before the show opened. Although this is a male role, the person who knew most of the lines already was the female music director who heroically stepped in to fill Josh’s size twelves. Josh became JoJo and there was some hurried rewriting of the final scene in which Will calls Brandeee in the middle of the night and Josh answers. Did we want JoJo to be in Brandeee’s bedroom in the middle of the night? This was a family show, after all. Even having Josh in her bedroom was a bit of a stretch, but lines were finessed and everything worked out just fine. The snow/sleet/rain hiccup on the show’s last weekend was more problematic. The Liberty Theatre website home page was amended with the announcement: 12/14/2013 – It may be snowing outside, but the show must go on!! The Santa diaries will still be performed tonight at Glyndon United Methodist Church! Come out and get in the holiday spirit!!

People got the message and the cast performed to a full house. Last year at the Avalon Theatre the last show was on December 23. That was a burden on the cast and crew as it was so close to Christmas. The Liberty Showcase Theatre’s production ended on December 15 which gave people a little time to breathe before the last reindeer dash to the 25th.

Liberty Showcase Thanks Us

At the last show Lori Chapman, the Assistant Director, gave Laura two wrapped packages. She brought them to me a few days later and we opened them together. They were framed photos of the cast and crew of the this production. We were thrilled. On the first Sunday performance Laura and I were given one of the posters signed by everyone. Mine will go on my Santa Diaries wall! We have felt very thanked and appreciated by Liberty Showcase Theatre. The are such a professional group. We’d love to work with them again.

Post Production

We need to know how the play could be tweaked to make it better. What could be done to make it easier to stage? Liberty had a cast of about 25 as opposed to the Avalon’s cast of 65+. Most of those additional people were children which is its own special challenge, but when writing for community theatre it’s good if the cast number has some flexibility. You want to be able to showcase especially talented people and need to plan for that. Laura and I will have a post production meeting with the Director, the Assistant Director and the Producer after the holidays so that we can make useful changes to the script and notes that would help with the direction and staging of future productions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if The Santa Diaries was produced somewhere every year!

Our thanks and excellent Holiday Wishes to all the cast and crew and to the audiences who enjoyed the show. Find your inner Santa and celebrate with family and friends.

Elves, Ballerinas and Firewomen

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In community theater you must accommodate your play to the available talent pool. In the Avalon production last year, we had two male and one female firemen who were part of the play’s community theater.

Liberty Showcase has a woman fireman, too. Her name is Sara Hampt and she is playing Woody (now Wendy) in the Liberty Theater’s production of The Santa Diaries. Sara is in her 7th year of teaching music in Baltimore County. An active member of Glyndon United Methodist Church, she leads worship for their early morning worship service and sings in the choir. This is her first return to musical theater since her performance in The Boyfriend her senior year of high school (that play originated on Broadway with Julie Andrews playing the role of Polly). Sara says she’s excited about this opportunity and hopes to take part in future Liberty Showcase Theater productions.

Sara Hampt

One of my favorite parts of our play was seeing the kids blossom as they become more confident in their roles. During rehearsals last year I was in awe of the adults in charge of the kids. It was like herding cats, but the minders kept the kids on task and made being in the play enjoyable. Some of the older kids had been doing Avalon plays since they were little guys. This happens in every community theater. Sometimes those kids are like Lori Chapman who came back as one of the Liberty Showcase Theatre’s directors and whose children are in the show.

Because it is community theater, roles sometimes have to be switched up to allow more kids to participate. In the December 7th, 2pm production, the role of Timmy becomes the role of Tammy and will be played by Makenna Brinton. This summer she acted and danced as Princess Phailin in GAP’s, The King and I.   Makenna has studied with Baltimore Actors’ Theatre Academy,  Pumpkin Theatre and Karen Sachs Dance Academy.  Her passion is singing, dancing and dreaming of Broadway.  When she’s not playing Tammy, Makenna will be on stage as a ballerina/Elf.

Makenna

Makenna’s younger sister, Tessa Brinton, who just turned five, will also be a ballerina/Elf in this production. She is currently in preschool and is thrilled to join her big sister on stage for the first time. Her mom, Melita, says her young daughter loves being front and center. Tessa loves riding her bike, singing, dancing and is always full of energy. These girls are  going to shine on stage.

Tessa pumpkins 2013

The changes needed for each production are what keeps the play fresh. Who can resist little ballerinas, adorable elves and firewomen?

A Boy and His Dog

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A child and a stuffed dog are just two of the characters in The Santa Diaries who begin to penetrate Will Hawes emotional armor. Timmy Darling has a problem and it’s one to which Will can relate. Other people know about it, but Timmy only confides his feelings to his stuffed animal, Marley, a toy from which he is inseparable.  As Will lets Timmy in, he becomes a mentor and protector of this little boy who, at the beginning of the play, is afraid of Will. And as Timmy let’s Will into his life, Marley can  occasionally be relinquished.

James Stranger, age 6, is playing Timmy in the upcoming production of The Santa Diaries at Liberty Showcase Theatre. This is his first play and his mom, Michelle, tells us he loves to entertain. A first grader at The Chatsworth School in Reisterstown, James takes ballet and tap classes and it was his dance teacher who recommended he audition for the role of Timmy. Mom says he is very excited and loves practicing his lines! In his free time, James likes playing with friends and dressing up in a variety of costumes. “He’s always wearing something crazy,” his mom says. We like his style! James is only the second person to play Timmy and he’s going to bring his own charm and enthusiasm to the role.

James Stranger

For staging purposes, Marley, the stuffed animal has to be big enough to be visible from the back row. And since there are several scenes when Marley comes to life and is a costumed actor, the stuffed dog and the dog costume have to match. At the Avalon Theatre last year, a Dalmatian was chosen and a costume with detachable head was purchased. Liberty Showcase switched things up and chose a lovely brown dog with floppy dark ears and white paws and snout. A costume is being made for the actor who plays Marley. I’ll post a photo when I can.

Liberty-Showcase-Marley-for

Laura and I will be attending a rehearsal of the show on Saturday, November 23. That’s just two weeks before the opening. We remember how chaotic things were at Avalon rehearsals last year around the same time.  It’s the time when you think there’s no way everything can come together. There’s a reason live theater is called DRAMA! But then it happens – the lights go up and magic happens.

Performances dates for The Santa Diaries are as follows: Friday, December 6th and 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM. The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.

Becoming Martha

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Fran Desha has been cast as Martha in The Santa Diaries being performed at Glyndon United Methodist Church this coming December in Maryland.  Liberty Showcase Theatre is producing the show.

Performances dates are as follows: Friday, December 6th and 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM. The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.

Fran DeSha

Laura and I loved writing this character. Like many of us, Martha especially misses her family at the holidays and hopes that if she can make Christmas perfect, they might come for a visit. She’s afraid to ask. What if they say “no.” Martha loves Sandy, the father in the play, and has to fend off her friends…the interested-in-any-single-man Casserole Ladies. She feels responsible for Sandy breaking his leg. After all, he was on her roof stringing Christmas lights when he tumbled to the ground. Martha is everyone of us who yearns for the holidays to sync with our fantasies.

Fran told us she did a lot of theater in high school and then took a 35 year break!  Professionally,  she works as a Regional Sales Manager for an insurance company.  She came back to theater a couple of years ago when her daughter got involved in theater at her college and convinced Fran to audition with her that following summer. The theater bug bit her again, and she has now been involved in several shows with various community theater groups – sometimes on stage, sometimes behind the scenes painting scenery, running curtain, moving props, or selling tickets.

Fran’s show credits include Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz, Assistant Stage Manager of Narnia the Musical. and my favorite… a Zombie extra in Night of the Living Dead. That must have been so much fun!

 

In her spare time Fran enjoys reading, antiquing, going to auctions and flea markets, and spending time with her daughter and friends. She told us she’s having a lot of fun doing The Santa Diaries which she calls a “wonderful heartwarming show.” We love that description. When it premiered at The Avalon Theatre last year, people laughed and cried. Something about the show touched audiences more deeply than we had anticipated. We think it might be that innocent holiday magic we had as children, and for which we still long.

Introducing the Music Director

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Elizabeth Tane Kanner is the music director for The Santa Diaries at Liberty Showcase Theatre. She is thrilled to be involved in her second production at Liberty, having appeared in last summer’s production of Godspell. As part of the Robert Hitz Studio, Elizabeth composes her own music and performs in various charity concerts, open mic nights and cabarets but is very excited to add music director to her list of skills.

Liz Kanner head shot

Multi-talented Liz also designed the poster for the show using the dancing Santa Laura used on the poster she created for last year’s production at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD.

SD_showflyer_fur

Recently, Liz has been focused on set decoration and design and has lent her design and crafting talents to Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis for St. Gabriel Miracle Players  and 1940s Radio Hour, The Full Monty, The Producers, Avenue Q, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Chicago and The Drowsy Chaperone for Silhouette Stages. Locally, she has appeared in: Avenue Q; The Fantasticks; Chicago; Blood Brothers; and Jekyll & Hyde. 

When not at the theatre, Liz works full time as a water resources engineer for a small ecological design firm in Annapolis, MD.  A newlywed, she and her husband live in Owings Mills, MD.

The Chapman Family

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Community theater is a multi-generational affair for the Chapman family.

Lori Chapman is a lady who wears a lot of hats. She is the Assistant Director of The Santa Diaries as well as the choreographer. She’s also playing Alice so she says life has been a little hectic lately. Lori is excited for Laura and me to see what Liberty Showcase does with the show. We’re excited, too, but quite calm – we know our baby is in good hands.

Lori Chapman

Another hat Lori wears is that of VP of Liberty Showcase Theatre. She says this theatre has always been such a huge part of her life that moving into the role was just natural. She literally grew up doing her homework and sleeping in various auditoriums as her parents were very active in community theater.  Both of them started off as performers and her father moved into technical theater (sound) and her mother became a professional costumer. Her dad was president of the theater for many years, and her brother, who also performed in shows, is now a high school drama teacher.

Lori made her stage debut as a bunny rabbit in 1978 in Liberty Road Community Theatre’s (now Liberty Showcase Theatre) production of Free to Be You and Me.  On top  of all of this, she has a full-time day job where she works for The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Nursing Homes Division.

Lori told me that Liberty Showcase Theatre has faced huge venue challenges over the past several years and became a fully sponsored program of Baltimore County Recreation and Parks in the hopes that would help. “Unfortunately the local schools do not want the hassle of having theater in their auditoriums and several of them have even cut their drama departments completely,” she said. What a tragedy. Not all kids are cut out to be rocket scientists!

So Liberty Showcase is a group that has been around for 40 years and has no permanent home – yet.  Lori and her board are hopeful that, with this production, they can secure a home for their Fall and Spring productions, but they are still looking for a venue to do their big scale family musicals in the Summer.

Echo Chapman

Lori’s youngest daughter, Echo, has been cast as Tory, one of the teens in The Santa Diaries. Echo has truly grown up in the theater/music world.  When she was a baby, she came to rehearsals in a front carrier while her mother taught choreography, danced, ran lines and sang. Not quite born in a trunk, but close. Echo attended many performances that her mother was in and she made her debut as a baby angel in a production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Her father is a musician and she had the opportunity to hang out at band practices and go to some of his gigs when he was playing and opening for national acts.

Echo

Echo has taken dance since the age of three and has studied ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, lyrical and musical theater. She loves to sing and plans to audition for the X Factor.  She is in the theater magnet at Deer Park Middle Magnet School and wants to pursue a career as an actress and/or a singer.  She is active in Girl Scouts and a straight A student. Besides being in The Santa Diaries, she is also in rehearsal for her school production of the play Big Bad.

Lori’s older daughter, Kaylee, who is 15, is not in this show, but Lori wanted to mention her. Proud Mama says Kaylee is an amazingly talented artist who attends George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, MD.  She wants to be a comic book artist and hopes to attend MICA. She also grew up performing but chose to focus on her art.  She still loves musicals though.  Kaylee will be in the audience for several of The Santa Diaries shows, and no doubt will be on her feet with the rest of the audience for multiple curtain calls for her mom and sister.

Multi-generation family involvement in The Santa Diaries is not new. Last year we had a three generation family all with speaking parts in the premier production at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland. Love of theater is often a family affair, and it just so happens that’s one of the themes of our play.

David Foster, We Already Miss You

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The Easton, Maryland theatre community lost one of its own on Friday, June 14, 2013 when David Foster, age 86, died. David was our Sandy Hawes in The Santa Diaries. His nuanced performance and rich voice made the role memorable. The opening montage with David’s voice over still makes me tear up.

David Foster

Not that he didn’t almost give us a heart attack every night of the show. In the first scene he was up on Martha’s roof stringing Christmas lights in a snow storm. I suppose if this had been a Broadway production there would have been a lift for David, but this was community theater so at each performance he climbed a 20 foot ladder behind the rear projection screen and waved the lights around. Laura and I sat in the back of the theater clenching our fists until he was safely on the ground. Then we could breathe again.

David never complained that he couldn’t do it. As far as I knew, he never asked the director to find another way. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but David knew the illusion of being on the roof was important. Al Bond held the ladder steady at the bottom, but when the run was over we were all glad that David had not fallen and really broken his leg as he did in the play.

David Foster loved helping other actors and that will be his true legacy in the theater community he embraced in retirement. It will be hard to remember he’s gone; we were blessed to have him with us.